On Doing Both

As I make my way through this world of ours — as Indiana Jones said, it’s not the years, it’s the mileage — I’m less and less convinced that anchoring on any single thing is the best way to make progress.  Sure, focus is to be cherished, but it’s energy that needs to be focused, not the target.  In other words, don’t mistake a narrow field of vision (or a small target) for a focused point of view.

Simplicity should be cherished, but simplistic approaches must be shunned.

I’m still wrestling with the ideas I just threw out above, but John Maeda’s post Do Both gave me a big push forward.  In it he says:

Is it cheaper to improve a product’s reliability and functionality? Or is it cheaper to improve a product’s desirability? Considering the marginal costs of additional research and development, combined with production, testing, assurance, and so forth, the answer is fairly clear. Investing in advertising is a cost-effective way to increase the profit for an existing product. If the campaign is any good of course.

What determines "good"? Is it the copy? Is it the visuals? Is it the celebrity that has been chosen to be the head cheerleader? Seems like there are tons of subjective variables to consider that will ultimately define success or failure… Do both.

Do both.  Do everything needed, no more, no less.  With focused energy.  I think that’s a good recipe for innovation.

6 thoughts on “On Doing Both

  1. Hi Houston,
    Yes, I used to believe in anchoring on two of those three.
    But I don’t anymore. First of all, I now think it’s very possible do all three at once. And — this is significant — I think your odds of doing something fast and good actually get BETTER if you have the constraint of doing it on the cheap.

  2. How to get stuff done

    Diego of metacool, a blog on the art science of bringing cool stuff to life, wrote about focus and simplicity today -Focus is to be cherished, but it’s energy that needs to be focused, not the target. … Simplicity should

  3. There is a lot we can control about reliability and functionality. They can both be measured and statistically improved. Coolness however is much harder to pin down. It is SO subjective… and ultimately determined by the consumer no matter how much we designers want to lay claim. Coolness is also transient and fragile. The moment you think you’ve got your head wrapped around it… it moves, changes, or disappears. Aspire to do both.

  4. Maybe cheap it tied to cool. Can you do something cool by committee? No. Can creativity thrive in a large organization? Hmm.

  5. Consider the context. For instance, how many electronic gizmos couldnt really stand to have one more feature added? down-featuring a product like that might actually make it more desirable.
    Maeda’s two paths can be rewritten as:
    “what can we give the consumer?”
    “what does the consumer want?”
    In many organizations, as Houston implies, these two questions are answered by seperate and competing groups.
    Perhaps, the realization that making the product/experience actually better -whether that means more desirable, up-featured, down featured, hip, anti-hip,whatever- is the point where Maeda’s two paths become the same path, and one ends up doing what is necessary, and no more.
    in other words, “what can we give the consumer, that they want?”
    I think its important to find that convergent path.

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